Kickin’ it Posnanski Style

Two starting pitchers, one a very highly regarded an ace if you will, the other often called things like “reliable, decent but not dominating, not an ace” The last phrase used by fans of the team he is on. They were both picked in the 1998 draft, the ace in the first round and the not-ace in the 38th. Here are the numbers for both:
Ace: 118 wins/ 74 L/ ERA 3.66/ IP 1671.1/ HR 150/ BB 528/ SO 1399/ ERA+ 121/ WHIP 1.24
Not-Ace: 123 W/ L 87/ ERA 3.79/ IP 1859/ HR 211/ BB 428/ SO 1091/ ERA+ 122/ WHIP 1.26

The Ace does have a slight advantage I think overall, but that isn’t the point. The point is that Not-Ace compares pretty favorably with the Ace and in some cases out does the Ace. Yes Ace has the higher amount of strikeouts but along with that comes the higher amount of walks. The home runs allowed is a little misleading in that Not-Ace plays in the most homer friendly ball park in the majors. Shifting focus from the regular season to the post season, which I know is a bit dubious because of the small sample size, but I do think the numbers give us an interesting insight:

Ace: 2 W/ 3 L/ 7.91 ERA/ 25 IP/ 24 SO/ 22 BB/ 2.2 WHIP (5 games total)
Not-Ace: 2 W/ 1 L/ 4.11 ERA/ 30.2 IP/ 16 SO/ 1 BB/ 1.07 WHIP (6 games total)

If they both make the post season these numbers will more than likely radically change, especially if either one were to throw a nine inning shutout or get blasted for 10 runs in 3.3 innings. What is interesting is that Ace seems to lose control during the post season (22 walks!) where as Not-Ace seems to really hunker down and take his control to another level. Neither ERA is very good, but 7.91 is approaching a level that makes even the most battle tested of fans a little anxious about his starts come October. Who are these two pitchers? Ace is CC Sabathia and Not-Ace is Mark Buehrle. Sabathia is the better pitcher, but Buehrle is no slouch and is in the same league as Sabathia, yet doesn’t seem to garner the same attention and praise that Sabathia gets. The other argument that I often hear is that Buehrle isn’t a true #1, a true ace of a pitching staff. Really? Let me ask my NY friends this: When its October and Sabathia is scheduled to start, how comfortable are you going to be knowing that CC has a 7.91 ERA and 2.2 WHIP coming in? And aren’t you just a little happier now that the trade to send Buehrle to the Red Sox never went through? Go White Sox.

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3 thoughts on “Kickin’ it Posnanski Style”

  1. This is very nicely done, and I think pretty well illustrates a point you’ve been trying to prove for a while. Good work. I didn’t buy this when you said it to me a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m more convinced.

    I do, however, think you can look at the numbers in a slightly different way. The Yanks aren’t paying CC based on the performance of his entire career. They’re paying him based on how he’s done since he’s become an ace, which is really the past three years. Look at how CC v. MB shakes out over a smaller sample size.

    2006:
    CC: 17-10, 6 CG, 192.2 IP, 172 K, 1.17 WHIP, 3.22 ERA, 140 ERA+
    MB: 12-13, 1 CG, 204 IP, 98 K, 1.44 WHIP, 4.99 ERA, 95 ERA+

    2007:
    CC: 19-7, 4 CG, 241 IP, 209 K, 1.14 WHIP, 3.21 ERA, 143 ERA+
    MB: 10-9, 3 CG, 201 IP, 115 K, 1.25 WHIP, 3.63 ERA, 131 ERA+

    2008:
    CC (total): 17-10, 10 CG, 253 IP, 251 K, 1.11 WHIP, 2.70 ERA, 162 ERA+
    MB: 15-12, 1 CG, 218.2 IP, 140 K, 1.33 WHIP, 3.79 ERA, 121 ERA+

    Salary:
    CC: 23 million
    Buehrle: 14 million

    I still agree with you: CC is making way too much money. But, other points:

    1) Buehrle makes a lot of money for a guy who had that kind of 2006.

    2) Over the past three years, CC has been significantly better than Buehrle, even counting CC’s dalliance in the Little Boy League (i.e. the NL)

  2. Thanks for the comment AJD. I agree CC is being paid for his recent success, but even with 2006 Buehrle is pretty solid. 2007 he really pitched well for an awful team and 2008 is right there for with his career averages. What would worry me as a Yankee fan are twofold 1. the amount of complete games for CC last year. 10! who in the hell throws 10 complete games anymore? Ned Yost could have really done some damage. 2. the launching pad that is the new Yankee Stadium. CC hasn’t given up a ton of homers in his career, but 150 isn’t the smallest number either. Putting him in a very homer friendly place may not be the best thing for his performance.

  3. Thought you might like at least parts of this SI article:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/jonah_freedman/06/17/mark-buehrle/index.html

    He gets minus one million points for naming his kid “Brooklyn,” but otherwise this is a nice piece.

    So, question: his career average K/9 is 5.3. Throw out ’06 (4.3 — no wonder he had a 4.99 ERA) and ’03 (4.6, ERA of 4.14) and it’s better than that. You know, speaking of K’s in general, every season he’s K’d more than 5/9, he’s had an ERA under 4. Now we’re on to something. . . I need to re-read a James article in the abstract and write a bit more about this.

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